The dream of doing nothing at work is really popular,  it may even by idyllic, but the truth is it may come back to bite you.

Boreout syndrome, also known as work boredom, is a complex phenomenon that may have many negative effects on those who suffer from it and, although some people think that keeping their seat warm whilst doing nothing is great, this may cause chronic boredom, low self-esteem, and even serious psychological issues, which may, in turn, lead to taking time off work due to depression.

What is meant by the concept of Boreout?

Boreout was first presented in 2007 by two Swiss consultants, Philippe Rothlin and Peter R. Werder. Although the concept is considered a taboo, the authors of: “Boreout: Overcoming workplace demotivation”, explain the causes and effects of this syndrome in people and define the term as an imbalance between time at work and workload.

Understanding the term as the absence or lack of work, we can see the harmful effects the syndrome may have on an employee’s psychological wellbeing when it happens over a considerable period of time. Low self-esteem, feelings of shame and guilt, lack of commitment to work, and a feeling of uselessness in society are just some of the results directly linked to not having enough work tasks or boring or meaningless tasks.

Human Resources departments can search for tools to try and avoid these types of problems which, indirectly, are also difficult for businesses as they have to deal with uncommitted employees, absenteeism, high staff turnover, increased sick leave, and employees leaving the company.

What is the link between stress and Boreout?

The term stress is currently very popular in the workplace and is used widely. It’s also commonly thought that less stressed employees hold less important positions or that their job doesn’t matter. This is why in our society we often try to overstate stress to be socially valued. It is evident and natural that there are stressed workers, who have too many demands placed on them; but the issue that concerns us is exactly the opposite.

It is important to be aware of this state of affairs and not pay too much attention to certain comments about stress, especially as we know it’s “highly regarded” as well as, predictably, socially desirable. It is important to identify how, in business culture, stress related issues are given greater importance than other topics, such as boredom.

What happens if we feel unchallenged, uninterested, and bored?

According to a study from Kelly Services, an international recruitment company, the average of stressed workers is approximately 27% across Europe. However, the remaining 73% includes workers who consider they have an acceptable level of stress or are under-challenged, which makes up the group at risk of suffering the exact opposite: boreout.

Let’s talk about challenges, interest, and boredom, which could well be considered essential in the 21th century workplace. Asking the following question is a good way of illustrating them: Do you have a colleague that you don’t know exactly what they do all day or what their tasks actually are? A friend who looks stressed but maybe actually isn’t at all?

Businesses know that one of the most common ills in the workplace is boredom and, that’s why, they must apply planning strategies to avoid it by setting new challenges, promoting group cohesion, motivating employees to strive for success, and ensuring that their business policies are regularly updated. These practices help workers not to fall into a dangerous comfort zone and growing demotivation.

We have seen that the demands on organisations lead to transformations in the ways of working. Accordingly, we have to try to avoid imbalances between people’s capabilities and their workloads. This well help to check harmful cases by preventing the impact on worker wellbeing, satisfaction, and quality of work life and, consequently, on business productivity.

In PART II we will see how to combat Boreout with SAP SuccessFactors.